More resources than ever for women entrepreneurs looking to grow business outside of Canada

How women can grow their business outside of Canada was the topic of a recent webinar hosted by Export Development Canada. A panel of trade and women entrepreneurship experts from the Business Development Bank Canada, Export Development Canada, Global Affairs Canada’s Business Women in Trade Program(BWIT) and Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada (WEOC) weighed in on doing business in the U.S. and internationally, how to find new customers through trade missions, where to find networking events for women-owned businesses and how to access financing, loans and venture capital to grow international sales.

Long-time client of BWIT and trade mission participant, Ruth Bastedo, also participated in the panel. She began her export journey in the U.S. and shared experience and advice based on years as an entrepreneur in the digital marketing sector.

Source women-focused entrepreneur and trade programs.

Bastedo explains growing her business relationships over the years, she realized how helpful women-focused export organizations or programs can be. “When you start a new venture you tend to be focused on the day-to-day business functions and sometimes it can be difficult to put your head up and figure out what other resources and opportunities that are out there to grow your business,” said Bastedo.

Trade missions are a great opportunity to grow your business.

Bastedo recommends participating in trade missions, particularly ones geared to women such as BWIT’s upcoming Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) National Conference and Business Fair in Detroit, Michigan (June 17-21, 2018), and the upcoming BWIT trade mission to Europe in Fall 2018, with details to be posted soon on the BWIT site. Canada’s recent entry into the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) means huge benefits for Canadian business women, affecting virtually every sector. Bastedo has joined trade missions in various capacities, as a volunteer supporting other female entrepreneurs to grow their business as well as a participant looking to grow her own company. “One of the most valuable benefits to trade missions is the relationship-building component. Making an in-person connection is very important, whether with the people traveling with you who are hoping to expand their ventures or the larger organizations you are interested in doing business with in an international market. Trade missions work for all stages of a business, big or small. I highly recommend building relationships outside of where you live.”

Know what resources and opportunities are out there.

Bastedo advises to know your business plan, know your product and know what resources are out there. “Never before have there been so many resources to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses. Right now, for example, I am working as a consultant on the Magnet Export Business Portal, a powerful new platform designed to match relevant export events, trade missions and opportunities to your business, based on your export-readiness, sector, location and goals. This portal will save you the time of sorting through hundreds of available business growth programs and trade-related information from partners such as BDC, EDC, Ontario’s Ministry of International Trade – and it’s totally free.” Details of the Fall 2018 BWIT trade mission to Europe will be posted on the Magnet portal, as well as on BWIT’s site.

Supplier Diversity Programs

Another great way for women entrepreneurs to get a foot in the door in new markets is supplier diversity programs. The procurement initiative started in the U.S. well over 30 years ago and provides certified companies, which are led by under-represented groups of people, the opportunity to enter more easily into a Fortune 500 company value chain.

Canadian companies are just beginning to recognize this type of procurement process, compared to the U.S where 97 per cent of Fortune 500 companies report that they have a supplier diversity program. These programs create opportunities for women and minorities to access new contracts more easily. There are also trade missions which align international organizations with supplier diversity programs.

Bastedo says she has been “bowled over by the commitment of people and organizations who want to see women-owned businesses succeed. Even if you are not yet ready to sign a contract, it is important to try and make that in-person connection to start the process of expansion.” Organizations such as WEConnect International in Canada and WBE Canada are good sources of information about supplier diversity certification for women-owned businesses in Canada.

Take the first step, she says. “It isn’t until we get out to those foreign markets do we gain confidence and realize we can compete.”

The recorded webinar is available for viewing in either English or French.